Austrocylindropuntia clavarioides var. ruiz-lealii
Austrocylindropuntia clavarioides is native from a region called “Puna”, in Argentina, close to the border with Bolivia. It is a mountain cactus: it grows between 2000 and 3000 meters above sea level in steppes and arid environments, where it mimetizes with the surrounding rocks. It can be found generally in environments in which no other plant can survive.
This astonishing small creeping perennial cactus takes its particular form due to the hard conditions of its mountain environment. It has a peculiar development. Once the seed germinate, it develops first of all a tuber as a storage of water and nutrients. Above this tuber, the so-called neck takes form: it is a cylindric, flat, stocky, low, large stem, which is the growing section of the plant and works as a stump. From the neck, many conic stems grow: sometimes they are finger-shaped and the entire plant assume a monstrous aspect. In its natural environment, only the top of the stems emerge from the ground. The color of the stems can be light or dark green: among them there are many white spines grouped in tofts on the areoles and flattened against the surface. Flowers are outstanding: with their bright yellow petals, they develop from the lateral parts of the neck.
To cultivate Austrocylindropuntia clavarioides, choose a deep pot and fill it with a well-drained mineral potting mix. This plant needs a full exposure to sunlight. It is tolerant to frost (until -5ºC/-10ºC it can survive), and also to drought. Pay attention to overwatering, which can severely damage the tuber.
Propagation is done through cuttings or grafting: grafted plant are usually more resistant.